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March 16, 2016 6:04 am

Dissecting the New York Times’ Latest Netanyahu-Bashing — Factual Errors and All

avatar by Ira Stoll

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New York Times headquarters.  Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

New York Times headquarters. Photo: Wiki Commons, via Haxorjoe.

It’s one thing for the New York Times to use an impending visit to America by Prime Minister Netanyahu as an occasion to launch an editorial attack on him. This week, though, the Times outdid itself, managing to attack Mr. Netanyahu over a visit to Washington that isn’t even happening.

The editorial at issue, “Mr. Netanyahu’s Lost Opportunities,” contains a few factual errors and more than a few bizarre arguments, so it’s worth a close look.

Begin with the criticism “that Mr. Netanyahu’s government announced this decision in the media rather than to the White House.” Isn’t there something strange about a newspaper attacking a government for talking to the press? The strong suggestion is that the editors at the Times would prefer that journalists, and the news-consuming public, would have had to wait longer before learning newsworthy information. That the Times here is editorializing in favor of keeping journalists in the dark is evidence of the contorted logic that afflicts the rest of the editorial as well.

The Times calls the Netanyahu leak “not a surprise, considering the disrespect the prime minister has shown Mr. Obama in the past.” There’s no mention of the disrespect that Mr. Obama has shown Mr. Netanyahu, beginning with the president’s failure to stop in Israel during a visit to the Middle East early in his first term. Even PBS and former members of the Obama administration acknowledged that was a mistake.

The next paragraph describes Israel as “the top recipient of American aid.” That is not factually accurate. In recent years, America has poured far more money into attempts to secure and rebuild Iraq ($2 trillion) and Afghanistan ($1 trillion). Military assistance to Israel runs about $30 billion over ten years, a bargain by comparison. Adjusted for inflation, America’s post-World War II assistance to rebuild Europe, about $103 billion in today’s dollars, also is more than what America has spent on Israel over any comparable time span.

The Times says that Mr. Netanyahu “has reportedly asked for a big increase in American aid to more than $4 billion per year, which seems unreasonable.” The Times doesn’t explain or argue why it is unreasonable; it just asserts it. The real unreasonable party here is the Times editorial writer, who ignores the effect of inflation. It’s a classic double standard. When Republicans want to increase health care or food stamp spending by less than the rate of inflation, the Times denounces it as a cut. But when it’s Israel’s military budget on the chopping block, the Timesmen all of a sudden emerge as advocates of spending restraint. Even David Makovsky, who served as a senior adviser to John Kerry at the State Department in the Obama administration, acknowledged this week that Israel’s position is that, after taking inflation into account, anything less than $3.6 billion a year “would actually represent a decrease in aid” from current levels.

Next, the Times claims that Mr. Netanyahu “has never shown a serious willingness” when it comes to “progress toward a Middle East peace deal.” “Never”? It’s as if the Times editorial writers don’t read their own newspaper. Here is a dispatch from Jerusalem published in the November 22, 1998 Times under the headline “Pursuing Peace; Netanyahu and His Party Turn Away from ‘Greater Israel.’” It reported:

[L]ast week, Israel’s parliament …approved the latest Israeli-Palestinian accord by a large majority that crossed party lines, and sanctioned a handover of territory that will leave the Palestinians in full or partial control of 40 percent of the West Bank… The triumph of pragmatism blurred traditional distinctions. Likud, despite defections, had joined Labor in accepting the inevitability of territorial compromise, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu worked to get the agreement passed in de facto alliance with the opposition… Mr. Netanyahu, in turn, committed himself during his election campaign to honor the 1993 Oslo accord on Palestinian self-rule signed by the previous Labor Government, effectively assenting to a withdrawal in the West Bank. He then signed on to the process himself in the 1997 Hebron agreement, which set the terms for a pullout from most of the city and for further Israeli withdrawals in the West Bank.

Or the Times editorial writers could have consulted the dispatch from Jerusalem that appeared in the Times on January 15, 1997. Headlined, “A Softening of the Hawk,” It began:

A cartoon in The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday showed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu looking into a mirror with a copy of the Hebron agreement in his hand, and seeing an image of Shimon Peres reflected back at him.

That perception of the hard-line Prime Minister as indistinguishable from the dovish Mr. Peres has been on many minds these days as a Middle East agreement drew near, and as Mr. Netanyahu turned to defending a withdrawal from Hebron against the same implacable right-wing critics at whose head he so recently marched.

No wonder Mr. Netanyahu has grown more skeptical of such territorial withdrawals; the Times editorial writers don’t give him any credit for those he already conducted. Instead, they assert, falsely and inaccurately, that such withdrawals “never” happened.

The editorial concludes with a call to involve “the United Nations Security Council” in a deal to determine “the future of Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, security and land swaps.” The Security Council’s permanent members include Vladimir Putin’s Russia, Communist China and France, with its large and restive Muslim minority. Israel should put its security and capital city in the hands of that body? No thanks. It’s a fitting concluding suggestion to an editorial that epitomizes how badly adrift the Times is these days on matters related to the Jewish state.

More of Ira Stoll’s media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Hana blume

    When ever was the NYT sympathetic to Jews? As far back as the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, the only victim ethnicity the Times could discern was Italian. The Jewish girls were somehow invisible to them

  • B. Cohen

    The Times most certain defames Israel, but the Jewish community is standing idly by – good people are doing nothing.
    One does not have to buy the Times to read the libels, but each us who complains about it needs to respond to each defamation. Groups can share one print or an on-line subscription.
    And then respond – to the reporter, to the foreign editor, to the executive editor, to the publisher and to the ombudsman. And call the foreign desk at 212-556 -1234.

  • Mordavig

    Thank you, Mr. Stoll. I never read the Slime´s editorials and your fine critique proves, once again, that doing otherwise would have been just a waste of precious time and brainpower.

  • SpeakSoftly999

    Great article!

    I have read that the Israeli government did in fact inform the American government that Bibi would not be coming to the US, prior to being announced to the public.

    As to the true thrust of this apparent attempt at picking a fight with Israel, IMHO what is going on here is Obama is laying the groundwork to unilaterally go to the UN and recognize the PA. He did it with the iran nuke deal and seems pleased with the technique.

  • Bob Lovell

    This is just another example id the seemingly knowledgeable media showing its ignorance and leftist bias. S&L corporations have bought, own & control the media by hiring like minded, arrogant corporate types who are required to do what the money behind them demands. There are no more Horace Greeley’s and independent thinkers running the news rooms! Please understand that the American people are getting wise to the sham that used to be called the fourth estate, see the leftist bias and are now mad as hell! Thus the Trump Phenomena! When I was in Israel, it was a safe haven for our military, the supplier of safe food for the 6th Fleet, an indispensable source of intelligence information plus an ally we could always depend on.

  • Herman Kaufman

    Mr. Stoll, very fine critique on the New York Slimes. However, why should we be surprised that the Slimes specializes in false, misleading trash? This ed. is so typical of the the tabloid’s deterioration. It has now become a joke.

  • Esther Schneider

    And once again, most Jews in American remain silent, completely condoning the Times’ character assassination of Bibi. Scarier yet, these clowns are lining up to usher in another Israel-hater, Hillary Clinton. By the way, notice the similarities in Hillary’s campaign logo and Hadassah’s? Again, silence.

  • Sam Harris

    Att: Morally thinking Jews! Just don’t buy the paper!

  • Martin Bookspan



  • Lionel Gaffen

    Unfortunately, there are still people who take the New York Slimes to be a serious newspaper, but more and more people are waking up to the fact that they are virulently anti Israel, and that they should be treated as such.

  • Lia

    Do any serious persons still read the NYT? Or the WaPo?

  • Arthur Cohn

    The editorials of the NY Times have always been foolish.They are becoming even more so.

  • Esther Kaplan

    Each issue of algemeiner is scarier than the one before it. The weight of helplessness becomes more and more intractable. There must be something we can do besides stare at the groups lining up against us. There must be something we can do in addition to banning the New York Times from our living rooms, better ways to protect our children than seeing the status of BDS on a given campus…

  • Andria SWITZER

    How much more stupid and biased can a newspaper be? Sadly, the Times is read by many and accepted as truth.

  • Ghilmeini

    not to beat a dead horse, it must be noted that the Times’ reportage and editorials have been deliberately steered to a very anti-Israel bent over the last few years.

    First they have mastered covering stories with sensational accusations against Israel followed by retracting or backtracking their wildest claims in the later text of the stories.

    They interview extremists and claim they represent the “Israeli” position when in fact they represent the smallest fraction of Israeli opinion.

    Lastly, and most evilly, they deliberately obfuscate and cover up radical anti-peace statements and incitement by PA and Hamas official media which any rational person would see as an impediment to peace.

    Bottom line: the Times are implicitly biased and very much part of the problem. When people finally look back at this side of the old gray lady’s history they have built a mountain of shameful lies against Israel and the Jewish people: brought to us by the same people who opposed the foundation of Israel and covered up the holocaust during the early 40s. Call it a tradition.